He had never been in her room except once, in the early summer, when he had gone there to plaster up a leak in the eaves, but he remembered exactly how everything had looked: the red-and-white quilt on her narrow bed, the pretty pin-cushion on the chest of drawers, and over it the enlarged photograph of her mother, in an oxydized frame, with a bunch of dyed grasses at the back. Now these and all other tokens of her presence had vanished and the room looked as bare and comfortless as when Zeena had shown her into it on the day of her arrival. In the middle of the floor stood her trunk, and on the trunk she sat in her Sunday dress, her back turned to the door and her face in her hands. She had not heard Ethan’s call because she was sobbing and she did not hear his step till he stood close behind her and laid his hands on her shoulders.
“Matt-oh, don’t-oh, Matt!”
She started up, lifting her wet face to his. “Ethan-I thought I wasn’t ever going to see you again!”
He took her in his arms, pressing her close, and with a trembling hand smoothed away the hair from her forehead.
“Not see me again? What do you mean?”
She sobbed out: “Jotham said you told him we wasn’t to wait dinner for you, and I thought-”
“You thought I meant to cut it?” he finished for her grimly.
She clung to him without answering, and he laid his lips on her hair, which was soft yet springy, like certain mosses on warm slopes, and had the faint woody fragrance of fresh sawdust in the sun.
Through the door they heard Zeena’s voice calling out from below: “Dan’l Byrne says you better hurry up if you want him to take that trunk.”
They drew apart with stricken faces. Words of resistance rushed to Ethan’s lips and died there. Mattie found her handkerchief and dried her eyes; then,-bending down, she took hold of a handle of the trunk.
Ethan put her aside. “You let go, Matt,” he ordered her.
She answered: “It takes two to coax it round the corner”; and submitting to this argument he grasped the other handle, and together they manoeuvred the heavy trunk out to the landing.
“Now let go,” he repeated; then he shouldered the trunk and carried it down the stairs and across the passage to the kitchen. Zeena, who had gone back to her seat by the stove, did not lift her head from her book as he passed. Mattie followed him out of the door and helped him to lift the trunk into the back of the sleigh. When it was in place they stood side by side on the door-step, watching Daniel Byrne plunge off behind his fidgety horse.
It seemed to Ethan that his heart was bound with cords which an unseen hand was tightening with every tick of the clock. Twice he opened his lips to speak to Mattie and found no breath. At length, as she turned to re-enter the house, he laid a detaining hand on her.
“I’m going to drive you over, Matt,” he whispered.